We talked about that stupid shredder for about 10 minutes. And only a couple of us knew who Banksy was.
At Sotheby’s in London last week, the Pynchonesque artist had embedded a shredder into a framed painting that sold for a million quid. As soon as the gavel landed, the destruction mechanism within the piece was activated, neatly slicing the canvas into a million little pieces.
Almost as quickly as we praised him –– take that, art-world phonies! –– we turned on him. “Now that piece is probably worth twice as much,” observed one of the unwashed, my father-in-law, a retired Air Force colonel.
And there seems to be some thought, propped up though it may be by people whose best interests align with “Girl with Balloon”’s doubling in value, that the former fighter pilot is right. Without offering any evidence, an online art broker said, “The auction result will only propel [Banksy’s prices] further, and, given the media attention this stunt has received, the lucky buyer would see a great return on the [£1.042m] they paid last night. This is now part of art history in its shredded state, and we’d estimate Banksy has added, at a minimum, 50 percent to its value, possibly as high as being worth £2m-plus.”
As we sat around a cooler of beer, water, and Capri Suns –– it was my kid’s seventh birthday party –– I felt I had to jump in to save Art itself.
“Yeah,” I yelped, “but then you see a J.T. Grant, and you realize that good art is worth every penny.”
Half of us scratched our heads. The other half nodded approvingly.
The Fort Worth artist represents some of the best, most innovative painting not only in North Texas but the entire planet. What makes me appreciate Grant all the more is that while he can do anything a camera can, he sometimes chooses to stray into gentle surrealism. Take that, traditional photorealists.
Hanging now through Saturday at William Campbell Contemporary Art, walking the horizon is J.T. Grant at his calmest, or perhaps least aggressive or surreal, considering that in a previous show years ago in the same space he skewered George W. Bush, who has now been canonized by everyone, including the left, because he just so happens to not be the tiny-handed teapot-despot in charge now. Maturity? Knowing his (toney Arlington Heights) audience? Either way, J.T. Grant still can paint like an old master. His technically immaculate, Caravaggio-like form is a powerful, progressive statement on its own. While we’re over here arguing over the biggest slices of pie, artists like J.T. Grant are achieving immortality.
The smallish show is made up of two varieties of new works. In Grant’s trademark skyscapes, expanses of brilliant blues and whites yawn above assortments of sometimes fluffy, other times striated clouds. Shadowy treelines below appear to hang on for dear life. Most of these pieces are massive. In his simple yet almost iconic still lifes, which are smaller, long and narrow bulbous flowers in naturally hued bouquets seem to swirl like flocks of birds across dark backgrounds, the stems intertwined almost musically. In either his skyscapes or still lifes, brushstrokes are visible only from up close.
According to the artist’s statement, walking the horizon is informed by “the feelings of chaos [Grant] experiences as he struggles to navigate today’s sociopolitical realm.” A possible translation is that Grant can’t deal with the right’s antics anymore than the rest of us non-nazis can, and his answer is to paint soothing scenery. Even as his clouds threaten to transform into knives and arrows, they’re still clouds. This tranquility also makes its impact felt on the viewer. I don’t have about half a year’s salary lying around to spring for one of Grant’s large canvases, but if I did, I wouldn’t shred it under any circumstances. And neither should you. And neither should he.
walking the horizon, by J.T. Grant
Thru Sat at William Campbell Contemporary Art, 4935 Byers Av, FW. Free. 817-737-9566.